War on Want

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War on Want
Founded February 1951 (1951-02)
Type Charity
Registration no. 208724
  • 44-48 Shepherdess Walk, London N1 7JP
Slogan Poverty Is Political
Mission To fight against the root causes of poverty and human rights violations, as part of the worldwide movement for global justice
Website www.waronwant.org
Formerly called
Association For World Peace

War on Want is an anti-poverty charity based in London. War on Want works to challenge the root causes of poverty, inequality and injustice through partnership with social movements in the global South and by running hard-hitting campaigns in the UK in support of radical change. War on Want's slogan is "poverty is political" and its stated focus is on the root causes of poverty rather than its effects; it raises public awareness of the root causes of poverty, inequality and injustice, and empowers people to take action for change.

War on Want is a membership organisation governed by an elected Council of Management drawn from its membership. War on Want patrons include Naomi Klein, Owen Jones, Raj Patel and Mark Serwotka.


The organisation was formed in 1951 after a letter in The Manchester Guardian from Victor Gollancz was read by Harold Wilson, later British Prime Minister, who coined the name.[2][3] Since then, the organisation has taken part in many campaigns and investigations, including in the 1970s helping to expose baby food companies marketing powdered milk infant formula as a healthier option than breast milk to mothers in the developing world - a dangerous and expensive option for these mothers who had no access to safe drinking water and sterilisation facilities.

In the 1980s, War on Want campaigned on the role of women in the developing world, and supported liberation movements in Eritrea, South Africa and Western Sahara.

From 1983 to 1987, George Galloway was General Secretary of War On Want. The Daily Mirror accused Galloway of living luxuriously at the charity's expense. An independent auditor cleared him of misuse of funds, though he did repay £1,720 in contested expenses.[4] The official history of the charity says that Galloway's methods of management created interpersonal problems among the staff, and although the charity grew under Galloway, his period in charge was followed by a serious internal crisis.[4]

More than two years after Galloway stepped down as General Secretary after being elected as a Labour MP, the British Government's Charity Commission investigated War on Want, finding accounting irregularities including that the financial reports were "materially mis-stated"[4] from 1985 to 1989, but little evidence that money was used for non-charitable purposes. Galloway had been general secretary for the first three of those years. The commission said responsibility lay largely with auditors and did not single out individuals for blame. War On Want was found to have been insolvent, and subsequently dismissed all its staff and went into administration. It was rescued and relaunched in 1991.

In the 1990s, it focused on issues that resulted from globalisation, including workers' rights and a call to set up a Tobin tax on currency speculation. The charity set up the Tobin tax Network (now a separate charity called Stamp Out Poverty) to develop the proposal and press for its introduction.

In 2006 War on Want launched a campaign for Palestinian human rights, including a report titled Profiting from the Occupation, which looked at European corporations who the charity claim are profiting from Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.[5] The campaign was praised by The Guardian at the time, naming the charity "Campaign of the Week".[6] In 2007 MP Lee Scott complained to the Commission about an online "guide for boycott, divestment and sanctions" against Israel; War on Want said it already had permission from the Commission to advocate boycotts and sanctions in order to address "the root causes of poverty and human rights abuses".[7] In July 2009 the Commission concluded that no regulatory action was required, declaring itself satisfied that the charity's trustees understood the official guidance on campaigning by charities and that War on Want's campaigns on Palestine were linked to its charitable objects, making them legitimate under charity law.[8] War on Want has been forceful in its support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign called for by Palestinian civil society.

In 2011, War on Want marked its 60th anniversary[9] with a repeat of the Yes campaign that first formed the charity, asking people to email the word Yes to show their support for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. They delivered the petition to Foreign Secretary William Hague.[10]

Current work[edit]

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership[edit]

War on Want at TTIP protest in London

War on Want is campaigning against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). TTIP is a proposed free trade agreement being secretly negotiated between the European Union and the United States. It argues that TTIP will cost over one million jobs, lead to the irreversible privatisation of public services, a 'race to the bottom' in food, environmental and labour standards and allow US companies to sue the UK government in private courts.[11]

Stop Arming Israel[edit]

War on Want is calling for a two-way arms embargo between the UK and Israel. War on Want believes that by selling arms to Israel, the UK government is complicit in Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people. War on Want supports the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. It also campaigns to expose companies which sustain and profit from Israel's Occupation of Palestine.

Food Sovereignty[edit]

War on Want's The Hunger Games report revealed how the Department for International Development (DFID) is using hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money with the express purpose of extending the power of agribusiness over the production of food in Africa. War on Want believes the root cause of the global food crisis is that food is treated like a financial commodity to be traded, and not a right for communities. It believes food production should be in the hands of small-scale producers.

Other campaigns[edit]

In its campaigning and programmes strands of work, War on Want focuses on

Organisations supported include those helping small-scale farmers in Sri Lanka, sweatshop workers in Bangladesh, olive farmers in the Palestinian territories and factory workers in China.[citation needed]

War on Want has released a series of 'alternative reports' highlighing issues such as Coca-Cola's overseas activities allegedly causing poverty and environmental damage.[12] It has also released research on alleged human rights abuses by private military and security companies in Iraq and elsewhere, and a report highlighting how companies such as Tesco, Primark and Asda sell goods made by sweatshop labour in Bangladesh.[citation needed] War on Want campaigns against these corporations, and calls for the British government to regulate these industries as well for as the businesses themselves to take responsibility for their actions. In 2010, War on Want released a report exposing the companies that it describes as "profiting" from Israel's occupation of the West Bank, and calling on ordinary people around the world to take action.

Praise and criticism[edit]


War on Want has issued numerous statements of solidarity with organisations and movement all over the world. In October 2009, War on Want issued a statement of solidarity with Abahlali baseMjondolo in response to the ANC affiliated attacks on the Kennedy Road informal settlement and wrote a letter to the South African High Commissioner in London.[13][14] The charity also spearheaded a campaign highlighting the forced displacement of poor South Africans in the lead-up to the 2010 World Cup.[15]

Israel boycott[edit]

The British Charity Commission investigated War on Want regarding campaign activities of a politicized boycott campaign against Israel, but the commission did not take any regulatory action.

In 2010, War on Want's[16] campaign "Help win justice for the Palestinian people this Christmas"[17] accuses Israel of "illegal Occupation," "daily human rights abuses," and "the siege on Gaza and the Apartheid Wall." As in previous years, this NGO calls for holiday donations in the form of "alternative gifts," in order to "launch a sustained campaign against UK companies that are profiting from the Occupation" and to "secure compensation for those who have lost land due to construction of the Apartheid Wall."[17]

NGO Monitor's Dan Kosky wrote that due to War on Want's support of an Israel boycott and its stand against the British presence in Iraq, a thorough review of the organization should be conducted by the UK regarding funding, for "if not, the United Kingdom could find itself aiding an Israel boycott campaign."[18]


Expenditure in 2007/2008 was £2 million, of which £1.1 million went towards international programmes, £500,000 for campaigning and development education, £320,000 towards fundraising, and £59,000 for management and administration.[1]

See also[edit]

References and footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b War on Want, Registered Charity no. 208724 at the Charity Commission
  2. ^ Taylor, Matthew (11 February 2011). "War on Want letter urges UK troop withdrawal from Afghanistan". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  3. ^ Gollancz, Victor (12 February 1951). "Letters to the Editor: Working for peace". The Manchester Guardian (ProQuest). Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Michael Paterson (23 April 2003). "Leadership of War on Want marked by turbulence and tension". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 21 August 2008. 
  5. ^ "Profiting from the Occupation: Corporate complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people". War on Want. July 2006. 
  6. ^ van der Zee, Bibi (25 July 2006). "Campaign of the week: War on Want". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 February 2007. 
  7. ^ Jump, Paul (30 August 2007). "Row over War on Want Israel campaign". Third Sector Online (Haymarket Media Group). Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  8. ^ Rocker, Simon (16 May 2008). "Charity’s anti-Israel stance sanctioned by watchdog". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 20 June 2008. 
  9. ^ Kent, Bruce (12 February 2011). "War on Want: 60 years on, still fighting poverty and militarism". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  10. ^ "Thousands of you say YES to the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan". War on Want. 13 April 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "Democracy for Sale". 
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ "War on Want calls for an end to violence against South African shack dwellers". War on Want. 2009-10-01. 
  14. ^ "War on Want Writes to the South African High Commissioner". Abahlali baseMjondolo. 2009-10-01. 
  15. ^ "South Africa and the 2010 World Cup - War on Want". War On Want. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  16. ^ "Building the Boycott". War On Want. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  17. ^ a b "Help win justice for the Palestinian people this Christmas". War On Want. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  18. ^ "Where War on Want is itself found wanting". Retrieved 8 September 2014. 

External links[edit]